Could you be anaemic? Iron Explained

Could You Be Anaemic? Iron Explained

Iron pills - the ones at the bottom are NOT vegan and contain gelatin (not stated on outside of box).  The other two are fine.  The ferrous sulphate are available over the counter in the UK.
Iron pills – the ones at the bottom (ferrous fumarate) are NOT vegan and contain gelatin (not stated on outside of box). The other two are fine. The ferrous sulphate are available over the counter in the UK.

This article outlines the problems with vegetable iron sources – and the solution (and it’s not necessarily meaty).

The science bit:

Iron is a mineral. It’s also an element, which means it’s on the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The fact that everything in the universe is made of chemical elements is why it makes me giggle when people come out with all that “it’s natural there’s no chemicals in this product” nonsense. Every atom is a chemical element of some sort, and every molecule is a combination of atoms – a chemical..

Iron has the chemical symbol Fe and is one of the transition metals, it’s moderately reactive, that is to say that it’s not as reactive as the group I and group II metals (zinc, magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium… you should watch a video about some of these if you haven’t seen them react in water). It’s still fairly reactive though, when compared to copper, gold, silver, or any of the group 4 or group 0 elements (such as carbon, which is in group 4).

The nutritional bit:

We need a small amount of a lot of different metals in our body – we call these minerals, because it sounds nicer than calling them either metals or chemical elements. We need 8-18mg of iron in our bodies every day. That means eating some broccoli on Monday isn’t going to cut it by the time Tuesday rolls round, and it’ll be long used up by Thursday.

The funny thing about dietary iron is that there are two types. Iron likes to behave differently under different circumstances because it does weird stuff (copper is similar in this respect), so it actually does make a difference whether your iron came from an animal or non animal source. In biochemistry, they actually have two different names for these two sources of iron – animal-derived iron is called heme iron (which is what you have in your body after your body has processed it) and plant-derived iron is called non-heme iron. The iron you find in your blood is always heme iron.

Basically, if you eat heme iron, the animal you got it from has already done the hard job of turning the non-heme iron into heme iron, which means you can absorb more of it, and you absorb it faster, and less of it is needed or wasted. If you eat non-heme iron, you are the one who has to do the job of turning it into heme iron before it can get to your blood stream (to make hemoglobin – see how they both have the same word stem). This makes it a slower process, and means you should eat more of it, because its less absorbable.

For vegans, this can pose a problem but being aware of it means that you can easily overcome it. The solution is to just eat more iron-containing foods, such as the ones I’ve listed in my table of vegan nutrition in this article. You do need to be aware of this though, because it means the Recommended Daily Allowance / Daily Value for iron doesn’t give you a true picture of how much iron you need to consume as part of your daily vegan diet. The medical associations who made that stuff up were doing it under the assumption that you eat an “average American/British/Insert Your Country Here diet.” For most vegans, that’s not you, which means you need to fiddle those numbers a bit and get more iron than the omnivores, so you get the same amount of iron in your blood as they get in theirs.

The medical bit:

If you don’t get enough iron, you will become anaemic. Anaemia is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells, because without iron, you can’t make red blood cells. They are the ones that carry oxygen around your body to release energy (which is the whole point of breathing and the process is called respiration). If you don’t have anything to carry the oxygen, you will constantly be tired and weak, and you will probably also be thirsty and dizzy and confused. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t go pale until the anaemia has reached a very severe level, so don’t rely on that as an indicator.

The list of symptoms of anaemia are:

Weakness, fatigue, general malaise, poor concentration, poor temperature regulation (feeling too hot or too cold for no reason). Some people also get depression, shortness of breath and in some cases, palpitations or angina can be present, due to increased heart rate as the body thinks it’s been exercising (anaerobic respiration) due to the lack of oxygen getting around the body.
Eventually, anaemia can kill you. Brittany Murphy and her boyfriend both died from pneumonia, which was a complication of the severe anaemia that they both had.

Not all of these symptoms will affect everybody, and the only reliable way to tell is to go to a doctor and get a blood test done. They will invariably want to put you on iron tablets, but be careful because I was given some last January that were called “Ferrous Fumarate” and they were made with gelatin, so that was a waste of money. Also be aware that in the UK those iron supplements that you get on prescription are also available over the counter, and if you pay for your prescriptions you should ask for the price because they’re usually selling for half the price of the prescription charge (and they’re not the ones you’ll find on the shelf – they’re more effective).

If you have anaemia, it’s a really good idea to take the iron tablets (I have some that are called ferrous sulphate which are vegan, but it will depend on the manufacturer as to which type are ok because different pharmacies use different brands which have different recipes, so always check). Making changes to your diet will help maintain your current iron level, but eating more iron-rich foods won’t be enough to increase your iron levels as much as is needed to overcome anaemia because you’re losing more blood cells by the minute due to the fact that you exist.

Side effects of iron tablets depend on which ones you get but I found the following side effects:

1. Standard off the shelf iron supplements – diarrhea, feeling too hot, stomach discomfort. They also don’t have enough iron in them to resolve anaemia (they have 14mg and the Ferrous Sulphate have 200mg).

2. Ferrous Fumarate – the idea made me feel sick due to the gelatin, so I didn’t actually take any.
3. Ferrous Sulphate – greenish tinge to stools, looser bowel movements, but nothing too spectacular. Sometimes they give me mild headaches.

In the long term, you are better off just eating more iron-rich foods. In the short term, get some supplements until you feel better. To prevent anaemia, always make sure you’ve eaten a bit more iron than you think you need. Remember, it’s not the general vegan diet that’s caused the anaemia, it’s your individual food choices within that vegan diet – so you have the power to fix it without necessarily having to resort to stopping veganism. Don’t deny the problem though if you have one because anaemia is really serious and totally curable.

Obviously doctors (and everyone else) are very quick to blame the vegan diet for anaemia, and for good reason, but do bear in mind that it doesn’t make you exempt from the other causes of anaemia which are more serious, so if your anaemia persists for several months while you’ve been taking supplements, go back to your doctor so he or she can thoroughly investigate the problem and make sure they didn’t overlook a serious blood disorder or something else important. If this is the case, it may be your sad duty to stop being vegan and include some meat in your diet to keep yourself alive.

If that happens, try not to be too hard on yourself. It may be that once you’ve got your iron stores high enough, you can be vegan again.

I was first diagnosed with anaemia in 2010. I spent 3 years in denial of the problem, until in late 2013 I developed a chronic blood loss problem that lasted 3 months. The blood loss caused the doctor to test for anaemia. This time, I eventually had to accept the diagnosis, from a different doctor, based on a different blood test. I was so anaemic that I had to take the iron tablets twice a day and I was also told, in no uncertain terms, that if I did not start including red meat in my diet I would never be able to function normally. For the first six months I made sure I ate red meat every second day. Then I tapered it down to about once a week. Then I left off unless I craved it, because in my experience my body tells me what it needs. Then I stopped completely, on 31st December 2014.

It’s two months since I stopped with the red meat regime and returned to being vegan. I’m now about 60-40 fruitarian to vegan, and I thoroughly researched the sources for nutrients before I considered changing my diets, which is what led to this vegan nutrition food sources table.

I do still take the Ferrous Sulphate when I need it, such as over the past week where the dizziness (technically it’s classed as vertigo, because it’s defined as “the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving” which is coupled with a feeling of disorientation and confusion, and always my first sign of anaemia, along with dry lips and skin) returned and I had to leave school early on Friday, leaving my classes in the hands of a cover teacher and losing half a day’s pay. I hate missing school for both of those reasons. So I’m back on the iron tablets again, due to the return in the last couple of weeks of the chronic blood loss problem, and I’m hoping that by catching it early this time, it will mean I don’t have to eat meat again. I’m also taking Vitamin K to help with the clotting.

https://invokedelight.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/wellness-are-you-getting-enough-vegan-nutrients/

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[wellness] Are you getting enough vegan nutrients?

The Ultimate Overview of Vegan Nutrition

Having had a merry old Veganuary and nearly being at the end of Vegruary, I have been giving some thought to the things I eat and the quantities in which I eat them.

I renewed my pledge to eat vegan at the beginning of this year after doing some very in-depth research into food sources for all the different nutrients and making sure that I knew a) How much of each nutrient I needed and b) Where I could reasonably be expected to get this from on a day to day basis.  I do still struggle to get enough fat, but I generally get a lot of fruit sugar which converts to fat which should help me with the chronic underweight problem I have been struggling with for the last five years.  Two months in it feels like its helping.

As a female, I need the following nutrients every day (some of these vary from time to time depending on my needs and activity levels, and the US and UK figures didn’t match most of the time either so I’ve generally gone with the US figures as they’ve sounded more reasonable for a lot of things, but in some places I either used the UK figures or went with what I know has been working for me – eg protein is 5g more than the UK Recommended Daily Allowance because that’s what I need):

50 grams of protein.  This should proportionally come from specific amino acids which I’ve listed in the chart accompanying this article.  I get mine from lots of lentils (which also count towards your five a day – yay, but are totally lacking in essential amino acid methionine – boo), nuts, seeds and tofu (which is actually more of a treat than a dietary staple these days).  When I’m training for outdoor pursuits, I need more protein as protein = muscle.  When I’m growing my hair I also need more protein as protein = hair.  Protein in fact makes most of the things in the human body so you need loads of it to fix stuff and grow stuff.  Protein is made of lots of amino acids, which are the things in protein that your body needs in different amounts, so it’s not enough to eat protein – it’s got to be the right sort.

70 grams of fat.  This comes from oils such as coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil in the vegan diet.  It can come from olive oil as well, although you shouldn’t fry with it as it requires a fairly low temperature before the molecules break down and release free radicals.  Fat is where you get your essential fatty acids, however, so you do need some in order to get those, which are also called Omega 3 and 6, although you can supplement with linseed oil or flaxseed oil. UPDATE: Also nuts are good sources of fat (sorry for omission)!

90 grams of sugar (aka carbohydrates).  This should mostly come from complex carbohydrates such as starchy foods like pasta, rice (GF), potatoes (GF), with extra healthy points if it’s wholegrain rice/pasta.  I also like amaranth (GF), quinoa (GF), pearl barley and noodles.

18g of fibre (fiber, in American).  This is easy peasy as a vegan you don’t really need to think about it (unless you’re a juicearian but I’ve made my thoughts on that very clear).  All fruits and vegetables count towards this and you don’t need to faff around with All Bran or other nonsense because it’s in the plants.  In fact, my dentist could tell I was vegan a few years back by the wear on my back teeth because of having such a high-fibre diet.  I don’t worry at all about this one because I did track it for a while but almost everything I eat counts towards my fibre intake.

I also need the following vitamins:

Vitamin A: 700 micrograms (with an upper limit of 300 micrograms because vitamin A can cause cancer in long-term high doses).

Vitamin B complex: B1 (thiamine) 1.4 milligrams (upper limit 50 milligrams); B2 (riboflavin) 0.9 milligrams; B3 (niacin) 14 milligrams; B5 (pantothenic acid) 5 milligrams; B6 1.3 mg per day; B7 (Biotin) RDA/DV currently undecided by health organizations, should be sufficient in the average vegan diet, excessive supplements can cause unpleasant side effects such as acne, greasy hair, mood swings and water retention; B9 (folic acid) 1 milligram, although when I start trying for a baby I will need more and will supplement; B12 (cyanocobalamin) (no Daily Value or Recommended Daily Allowance established).

Vitamin C: 40 milligrams per day, no upper limit.

Vitamin D: This utterly depends, see my article on Vitamin D.  I aim for 10 micrograms which is what the US dietary guidelines state, even though the UK ones say 5 micrograms is sufficient.  Since I’ve increased my vitamin D intake, I have noticed a whole raft of problems such as fatigue and irritability have gone away and I’m more cheerful, energetic, and getting things done.

Vitamin E: 15 milligrams per day.  I don’t worry too much about Vitamin E because my skin tells me when I need to eat more Vitamin E, by drying out.  Then I crack out the avocados.

Vitamin K: 90 micrograms per day.  I regularly exceed  this though, and I make sure to never take Vitamin K and Vitamin E at the same time of day (I usually wait at least four hours between eating a meal with one and the other), because they fight each other for absorption and your body will preferentially absorb the Vitamin E, making you think you’ve got enough K when you haven’t.

And the following minerals:

Calcium: 700 milligrams per day.  Soymilk is fortified and tofu often is too.

Copper: 2 milligrams per day.  Should be easily available in the food I eat.

Iron: 18 milligrams per day because I’m female.  Men only need 8 milligrams.  Don’t ask me why.  The NHS also says women un the UK only need 14.8mg but that just goes to explain this anaemia epidemic they keep pretending isn’t happening, so they can sell you iron supplements which are pressed with pig gelatin (EWWWW.  Sidenote – the two supplements are ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulphate; ferrous fumarate are gelatinous and very non vegan and non halal and non kosher, ferrous sulphate are vegan, both can be bought over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription in the UK, they both provide the same amount of ABSORBABLE iron).

Magnesium: (this is a DIFFERENT mineral to manganese – look them up on the periodic table if you don’t believe me, Manganese is Mn in the transition metals and magnesium is Mg in group 2): 270 milligrams per day (UK) or 310 milligrams per day (US).  I go for the US figure.  This is easily acquired through vegan food.

Manganese: (this is a DIFFERENT mineral to magnesium – look them up on the periodic table if you don’t believe me, Manganese is Mn in the transition metals and magnesium is Mg in group 2).  This is very easily acquired through vegan foods so be careful not to overdo it.  I need 2 milligrams per day, but am safe up to 11 milligrams.  I did look into this and found that, in spite of what the NHS website says (it says the upper limit is 4mg), there are apparently no adverse effects shown from excessive manganese and the tolerable upper limit was set artificially on flawed data from a narrow demographic and small sample size anyway, and also it’s impossible to get less than about 6mg from the vegan diet because it’s in nearly everything we eat.

Potassium: 3500 milligrams per day.  Don’t overdo it.  It’s the same potassium that they drop into water and that burns with a lilac flame (remember high school science??), and turns the water alkaline, so be careful.  I will get an article written on the whole pH alkaline diet fad that has been circulating, but I need to look into a few more things before it will be ready.

Phosphorous: 550 milligrams per day (UK) or 1000mg (US).

There are other minerals but generally even most of the ones I’ve mentioned here will take care of themselves.

Here is my table of all the sources of these nutrients.  I tried to get up to 10 sources, but where there are less, it’s usually because there are poorer sources but you’d have to eat a lot of them.  For Vitamin D, the sources listed are all there are (unless you want to waste huge amounts of money on algae, which hasn’t been proven to have absorbable Vitamin D in it anyway).  Remember D2 is abundant in the vegan diet, but D3 is not, the daily value doesn’t distinguish between the two.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge. Click again on enlarged picture to zoom so it’s readable.

Obviously this isn’t a complete essay on the entirety of vegan nutrition, and your mileage may vary based on age and gender, but this table is the culmination of my research in this area so far, and I thought it might provide a helpful starting point for people who are struggling or who are wondering why they are craving chocolate all the time (see the amount of nutrients in cocoa powder to find out).  I will continue to research this area and write more articles on it.  Happy Vegebruary!

[wellness] LET IT GO! Minimalism explained (with pictures)

Why not have a Spring clean of your life and habitat, and make space so you can practise those Blogilates moves you’ve been learning? Do you have no freakin’ clue what this minimalist thing is? Let me show you!  Read on to find out what it is, how to declutter your house, find some resources, then read my journey of discovery and see how bad my house was last week!!

When you Google “minimalism,” you get pictures like this:

Source: www.urbanhello.com
Source: http://www.urbanhello.com

This isn’t minimalism. It’s consumerism. That’s the opposite of minimalism. The purpose of images such as this one is to get you to buy more stuff. Basically, the consumerists want you to buy their furniture, items, paint etc and get rid of all your old comfortable stuff, and they’re calling it minimalism but they’ve missed the point. Why? Because otherwise, how could they sell you more comfy squishy stuff in 2 years’ time?

Minimalism is not about straight lines or monochrome colours. It’s not about “feature walls” or getting rid of floral prints, or any other type of consumerist style crap. It’s a philosophy.

Minimalism is often presented as something you can buy from a Scandinavian furniture store. The truth is, all you’re buying is what has been termed “minimalist style” by fashion magazines. Comparing minimalism (the lifestyle) with minimalism (the photos of monochrome lounges) is like getting your bedroom designed to look like a pirate ship, then calling it a pirate ship. It’s still a bedroom, and if you put your pirate themed bedroom in the ocean, it would probably sink (unless you live on an actual boat). It’s a theme, and it’s different to the thing itself. That’s the same with minimalism.

This is minimalism:

Source: http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/
Source: http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/

Note how there is still squishy comfy stuff and old well-loved stuff in the picture?  Notice the lack of clean lines and monochrome media centre matching sofas?

Minimalism is the act of getting rid of everything you don’t need in your life. When you think about it, this is diametrically opposed to going on a monochrome furniture shopping spree. You can’t buy minimalism because minimalism is the complete opposite to consumerism. Are you following?

Here are ten ways you can make your life more minimal:

1. Digitize: Scan your photos, digitize your music and video (there are plenty of online services such as Netflix that make the DVD redundant) and get a Kindle (or better still, get the FREE Kindle For PC app and download books from amazon.com). Then get rid of the physical copies.

2. Get rid of anything you haven’t used for over a year, unless its purpose is very specific (e.g. scuba gear, ice skates), in which case give it three years (if you haven’t used it after 3 years, it’s probably not your hobby any more). Recently I got rid of my flute because I hadn’t used it for about 4 years.

3. Getting rid of batteries and envelopes is silly. You’re buying into consumerism because you will have to buy them again at some point. Getting rid of broken torches and that “solar battery charger” from 1998 that never worked in the first place, on the other hand, is sensible.

4. Detach the concept of “value” from how much you paid for it or how much it is worth now or how much it will be worth in the future. Value is a construct that is human-made and self-perpetuated.

5. When you buy something new, ask yourself if you really need it. If you answered yes, remove one item from your house. This is the one in – one out rule.

6. Start small – get rid of one item a day until you have less things.

7. Queue items to use – many people actually have loads of items in their home that they bought ages ago – and have never used! Make a note – a mental note or a paper note – of which items you’ve never used. If it’s a set of books, they are your next things to read (you might have to make an effort to read more); if it’s a saucepan, make your lunch or dinner in it today; if it’s a cosmetic, either try it out (and either keep or bin it) or intentionally leave it sealed and put it in the give-it-away pile.

8. Duplicates – where you’ve got two items that either are the same or do the same job, get rid of the second one.

9. Find things to do outside your house – don’t be constrained by things like opening hours. One of my favourite things to do is to go for a walk when all the shops, attractions and pubs are shut and there’s nobody about, just to appreciate the silence and emptiness and tranquility. Everything looks different at that time of day.

10. Use your free time (that was previously used to acquire more items) to strengthen your relationships with friends, family and other loved ones.

Resources for minimalism:

Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism

http://performdestiny.com/how-i-got-rid-of-all-my-possessions-a-step-by-step-guide/

FLYing Lesson: How to Declutter

How to Declutter an Entire Room in One Go

15 Great Decluttering Tips

I love the ideal behind the concept of minimalism, I thought it meant buying plastic angular tables etc. Now I know I can keep my stuffies, because at the end of the day, this is another one of those journeys you can embark on, and it starts with a single step (but has to be followed by a bunch of other steps, otherwise you’ve just stepped around in your own comfort zone).

Minimalism for one person might be a toothbrush and a pair of jeans, whereas for another person it could be a wardrobe full of designer dresses. As long as the items are getting used, fulfilling you and not getting in your way when you want to do things or experience life, your minimalism can be as… minimal as you like. Personally, I’m trying to clear the house out. I want to know how few items I can live with. I will keep you posted as I go. It’s definitely helping that I’m now 40% fruitarian, because that simplifies cooking and eating by a long amount. I’m not getting rid of any cosmetics because I clear out the unwanted ones regularly and they are very important to me because cosmetics. Since they’re only taking up two drawers, and throwing out a couple of eyeliners won’t bring cosmic harmony to my life, I’m keeping the lot. It’s the bigger, more insidious clutter – the stuff I don’t see every day but have to wade around whenever I want something from a certain room. There are two rooms in our house where you have to rearrange stacks of clutter to get to the windows. That’s the sort of clutter I’m talking about.

The main challenge I’m facing is that I’m married, and while my partner agrees that we need to declutter, I don’t think he is as willing as I am to let go of large items of furniture or larger quantities of books (we have over 1000 books), a lot of which he brought into the house. For the longest time I thought this was acceptable (because changing other people is bad, right?) but recently I reached critical mass. There was a bunny emergency, and I had to wait ten minutes to get to the source of the problem because of clutter. I lost my temper. The next day, I realised that actually, I was to blame for all this clutter.

Sure, my partner brought it into the house, but I was the one letting this cycle perpetuate by saying nothing and acting like this situation was okay when it really wasn’t. Then I had a huge wake up call – I’m the hoarder! I’m the one who can’t get rid of things! And at the same time (like many children of hoarders) I am a clutterphobe. I simultaneously hate clutter and have difficulty getting rid of things. I force myself to make decisions and get rid of large quantities of things, out of a fear of people finding out that I hoard things, but then I bring more crap into the house because I’ve never fessed up to my problem and haven’t admitted to myself that I need to address the root cause.

My childhood was hard. Whose is easy? In a world where everything kept changing, where we frequently would lose everything we had (we were homeless a lot), I associated security with “somewhere where I can keep everything.” I guess Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s sums it up: “I’m waiting for a place where me and things go together. That’s when I’ll name the cat.”

Only, I’ve found the place where me and things go together. Oh, so many things. Too many things. Unnecessary things. And now I need to ask myself what will happen if I get rid of all these things.

Nothing.

Do I need coloured candles, a relic of the 15 years I was a Pagan? No! I’ve moved on.

Do I need the archaeology books I bought during undergrad? I was keeping them in case I did a Master’s. Will I ever refer to them again, even if I do a Master’s? Probably not, I graduated six years ago. I’ve moved on.

Every item I was scared of letting go of related to a time in the past that I’ve now moved on from. It was as if I thought having the possessions would bring back the time. As an archaeologist, it’s what underpins our entire discipline – artefacts from the past = our concept of the past. And books, for those written histories.

That was when I realised it was time to let go of it all. I’d already moved on – I was trying to, anyway – and needed my physical plane of existence to catch up with where my head was at, so I didn’t get lost in the past. It felt like such a big revelation.

I never liked museums anyway – why would I want to live in one? It’s why I didn’t have a career in anything archaeological, because it all seemed to start with museums. I feel like I’ve been living in an alternate reality for a long time, that I need to wake up from now. I need to let go. There’s nothing to be afraid of in the empty space.

This is a few pics showing my starting point.  I can only go up from here:

Yup that goes to the ceiling.
Yup that goes to the ceiling.

Hoarder clutter house before minimalism declutter

That's all gone already in week one!
That’s all gone already in week one!
Yep, that's a rocking horse.
Yep, that’s a rocking horse.
You can't sit on this chair because of all those cushions - which came from a chair we no longer have!!
You can’t sit on this chair because of all those cushions – which came from a chair we no longer have!!
That is another upstairs window we couldn't get to if there was a fire.  How did you guess??
That is another upstairs window we couldn’t get to if there was a fire. How did you guess??

On the first day, I got rid of the stuff on the floor in this photo (the background is also hoardings that will be addressed in due course):

I still have those hangers to deal with (and more) because I have to finish all the laundry to make sure every item has a hanger before I donate the others.
I still have those hangers to deal with (and more) because I have to finish all the laundry to make sure every item has a hanger before I donate the others.

This is my power ballad that really sums up this exciting transition period in my life:

Let It Go

Have you made the transition to becoming a minimalist? Do you find it has helped you achieve your goals? Are you scared of making such a big change to your life? Let me know in the comments.

Fad diets for the thoughtful 5: Conclusion and how to spot a deficiency

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 5: Series Conclusion

Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea?  This would be the dealbreaker for me.
Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea? This would be the dealbreaker for me.

New to this series? Start here:

Raw Veganism:Part 1
Fruitarianism and Juicearianism: Part 2
Sproutarianism: Part 3
Breatharianism: Part 4

My table of comparisons between the diets discussed in this series, using vegetarianism and macrobiotic as baselines for comparisons, click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.

Conclusion:

In this series, I examined raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism, juicearianism and breatharianism to find out what they were, what the advantages and disadvantages were, and, as per my table above, whether they were nutritionally sound.  I also produced this handy infographic:

The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.
The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.

In conclusion, there are a lot of restrictive diets out there, many of which are founded on religious or philosophical concepts. Whilst researching this article I found out about The Creationist Diet, which I will discuss in a future post – Creationist vs Paleo diets. Of the diets discussed, I would strongly suggest that anything below a raw vegan diet is not fulfilling all of the basic nutritional requirements of a person. Raw veganism sounds really interesting as a concept (I actually think the concepts behind sproutarianism and fruitarianism are also pretty interesting) but obviously you would have to spend a lot of time researching and finding out about how to get the exact nutritional requirements from these foods without eating too much “filler” (fruit sugars, chlorophyll etc) in the process.

The 75% concept is a good idea – I would like to see more people in all these different sects of veganism advocating following 75% (their diet) and 25% (to take it up with nutrients). I would be particularly intrigued to follow a 50-50 diet between fruitarianism and sproutarianism to see what the effects were like, because their nutritional deficiencies do complement each other although I would only want to do this for a short while due to it being extremely difficult to get enough protein from fruit and sprouted seeds by volume (and I have had a protein deficiency in the past, I don’t want to go through that again). I have future plans to road-test raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism and 50-50 fruit-sprout-arianism, to be able to give a full and detailed review (and just to have experienced these things; in case you hadn’t noticed I’m all about getting the experiences). I will not be including juicearian and breatharianism/ineida, however, because they are just bloody stupid, and I can live without the experiences of abdominal pain, diabetes or death.

I also found out that some people use the term aquatarian to describe a water-only diet (and some people use it to describe pescetarians, presumably because they want it to sound nicer). Personally, I would like to see a water-organisms-only diet (fish, sea vegetables, seafood and water) and I would describe that as aquatarian. Presumably that would have too many nutrients for anyone to actually sell it to people. I would guess the water-only drinkers don’t live long enough to design or make a website, as none of them have one, just commentary hints about how “only water is pure” and how water has all the vitamins you need (which is absolute rubbish).

I’m going to offend someone with this; this entire paragraph is specifically talking about breatharianism: The breatharians with websites are obviously lying. If you can’t see that we need to eat and drink to live, you are either extremely gullible (possibly raised within a strict dogmatic faith), or you’re a spoilt middle class or upper class idiot with too much money and not enough sense, because anyone who has genuinely gone hungry or been surrounded by hunger in a situation beyond their control knows they need food to live. Find a real religion or spiritual system (or devise your own that works just for you) which will give you a sense of fulfilment and personal destiny, a spirituality or sense of purpose. Steve Pavlina has some great ideas about the mysteries of the cosmos – check him out: http://www.stevepavlina.com

Lunch Identification:
If you’re getting angry because I’ve criticized your diet, learn what’s making you so angry here: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/lunch-att/lunch-attitudes-1a.shtml Please note that this article explains the pathologies behind lunch identification but it falsely assumes that only vegans and raw vegans are capable of such a thing – failing to understand that the militant attitude of some plant eaters was directly caused by the same lunch identification (and worse) from omnivores – in other words, the meat eaters have spent the last 150 years disparaging vegetarian and subsequent diets, so of course vegans have grown to learn a logical set of reasoning to explain their choices to the next ignoramus who asks. I am not a vegan (I was not a vegan when I wrote this all as one long article before I published part 1 in December – I’m vegan now, and still totally comfortable with what I eat), but have been an omnivore, a vegetarian and a vegan (and all sorts of other things) in the past, and I am comfortable in my eating habits, so am able to make this observation. Also bear in mind there are a hell of a lot more omnivores so they each have to be less negative to wear a vegan down to the point where they reciprocate. Not that it stops the omnivores from going too far consistently (have I now pissed off every dietary group???).

This is important, because a lot of the anti-vegan propaganda focusses on the fact that veganism has a coherent rationale and that every vegan will tell you similar reasons for eating vegan. That rationale was developed as a response to what the article calls “dietary bigotry” – and in the first place, the bigotry was travelling from omnivores towards vegetarians and this fixation on trying to change other people’s diets and “convert them to meat eating” arises out of a chronic insecurity, which caused a reciprocal problem in the vegan community and downwards. Additionally, if the reasons are appealing to the vast majority of vegans and play a part in the decision making process, then it stands to reason that people will cite similar reasons for going vegan.

However, the pathologies described in the article are good and accurate and worth being aware of if you find yourself becoming obsessed with diet. The real question then would be what to do about it, but I think that your approach to that would be highly personal and utterly depend on your circumstances, such as what you were currently eating and how far gone you were. There is a fine line between conscious eating and silly eating, and only you can judge where that line falls. Unless you end up ill, in which case leave it to a qualified doctor.

Here are some signs you should not ignore in any vegan diet:

1. Constant tiredness – this is a symptom of many nutritional deficiencies, including protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It’s also a symptom of excessive tryptophan, one of the amino acids that is plentiful in the vegan diet. Excessive tryptophan causes “serotonin syndrome” which can be deadly.
2. Constant difficulty doing “brain-intensive” work, e.g. reading – this is another symptom linked to the above, and implies a deficiency of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
3. Constipation/diarrhea for more than 3 days – this is a big sign that something is wrong in your digestive system. Once you’ve solved the short term symptoms (with either a laxative or an anti-diarrhea pill) you need to start going through what you are eating and how you are preparing it to find out the cause of the problem – this can be caused by contaminated foods, such as lentils, which haven’t been heated quite enough to kill all the bacteria, also food intolerances, fibre intolerance, dehydration and excessive iron intake.
4. Hair loss (excessive) – Protein makes hair. If you don’t have enough protein, your hair falls out. It shuts down non-essential systems, and hair is one of these. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies also cause hair loss.
5. Irritability – This is another sign of protein deficiency, as well as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and a host of other things. If you have periods, do check that it’s not just the week before your period – PMS and PMDD both come with irritability as standard.
6. Pica – the need to eat things that are considered “non food” e.g. coal, glass, ice. You have a food deficiency. To identify what the deficiency is, find out what the “non-food” item you’re craving is made of, and see if any of its composition is a mineral (or other nutrient, but it’s most commonly minerals such as iron). Try supplementing with that mineral and see if the pica goes away.
7. Hallucinations and delusions – You have a severe B12 deficiency, get thee to a doctor and get some supplements as well.
8. Inability to “get going” – This is an extension of tiredness/fatigue/concentration problems, and is down to lack of energy – i.e. carbohydrates. Try a piece of fruit, try checking if you have any other symptoms, and if it’s still a mystery, go to the doctor.
9. Constant hunger – You’re hungry, even though you’re eating loads. It’s because you’re not getting the right stuff inside you. Try mixing it up and eating something really random that you wouldn’t usually try, such as nuts, goji berries, mushrooms or couscous.
10. Unexplained bruising and bruising far too easily, with the bruises not fading after the usual time – this is a vitamin K and iron deficiency. Usually accompanied by some other symptoms such as fatigue. Supplement with vitamin K and iron.
11. Your period has stopped – This is a big sign of malnutrition which I mentioned before with the video in Part 1.  If you usually have a period (and there are a host of reasons you might not, e.g. not having the right equipment, being on long term contraception, pregnancy, medical problems etc) and your period suddenly stops happening, check you’re not pregnant.  If you’re definitely not pregnant, you need to get more food into your diet.  Amenhorrea is never something to ignore as it is a sign that something fundamental is wrong with your body, even if you feel well.  I would consult a doctor if you absolutely will not change what you eat, but I don’t know what else they would say.

With all of the above symptoms, you need to take a step back, assess whether your diet is really giving you the nutrients you need. This can be really difficult to do when you’re still in the middle of it, so I would recommend trying supplements first, if you can find any that fit your diet rules, then have a think about whether there are any foods you could get that suit your vegan-subtype that would be a better long term solution to include in your diet.  Personally, if I was having problems with a diet, I would revert back to regular vegan or even ovo-vegetarian for a period of time, build up my nutrients so I’d got a good store of them, then try again.  I have a milk allergy so there is absolutely no way in hell I’d ever eat milk or milk derivatives, which is why I don’t discuss the role of milk in the diet.

In all of the places where I have mentioned a “doctor” I mean a medical professional who has spent many years training at a medical school and works in a medical setting with the ability to identify your ailment accurately and find a solution to it.  Retired doctors, pharmacists, nurses, holistic therapists, dentists, voodoo dancers, village shamans, hairdressers etc etc, all have good intentions and can have some good advice, but there are times when you just need to see an actual current qualified doctor who is up to date with latest developments in their field and has the power to prescribe you something that has been tested rigorously to make sure it actually works – and someone who you can hold accountable if it doesn’t work, because they have a vested interest in getting it right – or they can lose their licence to practise medicine.